I don’t remember exactly when, but sometime between ages five and eleven, I decided I wanted to be historic. Not just famous, historical. This moment happened somewhere between me realising that I too, despite my best efforts, will die someday and the pain and devastation that comes with realising that, despite my best efforts, I would never be good enough for my violent father.
Making history is one way to ensure that you will both live forever as well as be loved, and if not loved then accepted, and if not accepted at least noticed, and if not noticed then at least not be targeted by a man whose violence knew only extremes.
So since I was young I have set out to become historical, significant, immortal, admired, liked. I didn’t have (and don’t really have) a cause celebre, just a desire to be historical, significant, liked. And this little fact alone has been the cause of much unhappiness throughout my life, throughout all of my life.
Because the reasons were wrong because the aim is almost futile and the cause non-existent.
Despite my best efforts I just feel like a complete and utter failure and despite my best efforts I still have that moderate level of anxiety that constricts my chest that clogs my pores that pinches my nostrils and deprives me of oxygen so much that I often feel like I am not in fact real it makes me feel like the body that I inhabit is not mine that the people places and things around me are not factual and that there is no border between where I end and the room begins it’s an anxiety that makes me want to scream in bloody violence and frustration and pain and anguish while also violently silencing my own voice because it feels not good enough and the room spins and the world turns and my breath is shallow and my blood pressure simultaneously high and low and my heart beats faster and my veins run cold and my blood is hot and my mind is simultaneously sharp and foggy and my heart shrinks while my head expands and vice versa and I feel not like I am dying but like I am dead meanwhile the cacophony of feeling itself is a reminder that I am very much alive. And that I’m still here.
So I get up, I go to work, I come home, I go to sleep and I get up, and I go to work, and I repeat all of the things that good human beings do and must do and should do and ought to do in the hope that one day someone somewhere in the future will open up a chronicle to the entry for 2 June 1983 and see that that was the day that the famous [whatever], David Mejia-Canales, was born.
All of this misplaced and misguided glory-seeking has caused me nothing but pain- extreme pain and has made me indifferent to my achievements to date. Because despite my best efforts I’m still just another anonymous person on the train, going home, or to work, or for a beer. I’m just another faceless person living an ordinary life.
I think that’s ok. In fact, I think that an ordinary life is what I’ve been hoping for since I was old enough to hope for anything. An ordinary life is what I have been fighting for, and now that I’m here I don’t want it. Not only do I not want it, it feels like I resent myself for achieving nothing but ordinary.
Why am I so unhappy to the very fact that I genuinely feel that sometimes being alive hurts. Not the type of pain you feel for unrequited love or missed opportunity or a failed opportunity but the type of scalding pain that burns all the layers of your skin. A pain that will leave you scarred and disfigured.
I have everything I have ever wanted and if I do not have it yet I have the capacity both in my hands, and my mind to work earn it. Yet, I feel a loneliness that can’t be satisfied and a pain that can’t be cured and no matter where I go - it’s there.
I’ve lived a remarkable life, and when I say remarkable I mean unusual not one deserving accolade. I grew up in a home that can’t be characterised not as violent for that would be too kind - I grew up in scorched earth. My first memory is of my father trying to beat my mother while she barricaded herself in my bedroom with my cot. That’s right, my cot, not a bed for children, a cot for toddlers- I may have only been three years old.
I’ve been homeless and starved.
Once I lived for two weeks with a chronically mentally ill sex-worker in an unattached room that had been taken over by the neighbourhood cats as their toilet because there was nowhere else to go.
I’ve had to also explain in detail to a police operator in detail the type of weapon my father had (a machete) after he attacked me with it and if he was on the run. I’ve also had to sit alone and devastated after the police arrived and told me that there was nothing they could do as domestic violence was a family matter, not a criminal one.
I fled a war and flourished.
Now, here I am looking at my hands that look older than my 35 years and wondering where I went so wrong that I am not taught about in textbooks.
I have been deluded for so long, I confused a desire to be liked and accepted with me performing magnanimous acts just to be noticed. And I did all of this at great personal expense and I did it so well that the world outside would never guess at the seven layers of anxiety hell inside.
All I ever wanted was an ordinary life - a life free of violence, of hunger, of insecurity. I’ve got that.
All I ever wanted was just a bit of tenderness, understanding, love for the many flaws that make me and the abilities that define me. It’s not that I never get that or that I’ve not had that from some people in my life - I have -, but it’s so hard for me to ask for these things because they’re just so very human.
They’re just so basal, and human, and emotive. How can I, a survivor of extreme violence, homelessness, hunger, pain and displacement? How can I have such human emotions? These are not the qualities of someone worthy of being chronicled, as far as I am concerned. Yet here I am looking at my hands that look older than my face wondering why it’s not difficult for me to pull myself out of a situation with unwindable odds but it’s so difficult to accept that it’s just tenderness that I’m after.
Tenderness and an understanding of my failures and kindness to my many mistakes.
I don’t know how I’m still alive, but I’m learning that it’s the ordinary life that brings happiness.
The anxiety, however, that continues.
Is this a call for help? No absolutely not. It’s just me trying to untangle my thoughts in public. I’ve tried to do this in private for 35 years and got nowhere.
Besides, what’s more human and more remarkable than flipping back the curtain to let you know that it takes blood and guts to keep everything moving.
I’m always up for a challenge.